Among the Big Sticks, perhaps one of the least well known has to be the Bolivar Gigantes. Hardly mentioned in circles where the Partagas Lusitanias, the Hoyo Double Corona or the RyJ Churchill are more illustrious, the Gigantes nonetheless has qualities that make it a firm favourite amongst those who enjoy the pure bitter bean flavours of the brand.

I recently received a cabinet of these beauties, AIS JUN 04 — the ’04 batch of Cubans have been the best in recent memory, and taking this as a guideline, i knew i would not be disappointed by its performance.

There are few things more pleasurable in the cigar aficionado’s arsenal of delights than beholding a full cabinet of 50 Cuban cigars, neatly banded together in silk in the classic full wheel formation. And so it was when i cracked open the lid to reveal the cigars below — what an amazing sight! The aroma that wafted up to my nose was intoxicating, the oily shine on the cigars was nearly as good as my shaving mirror.

Lifting the wheel out of the cabinet, i slowly pulled out one and performed my usual pre-light ritual: i rolled it casually up and down my palm, feeling its weight, trying to gauge the balance in its construction (poorly balanced cigars actually flip out of my hand when i do this!), then i rubbed the wrapper gently with my fingertips, savouring its oily smoothness. The Gigantes scores top marks in every department — good balance, healthy natural wrapper rich with some really funky oil splotches, no hard or soft spots anyway. Superb leaf, great construction.

The pre-light aroma was surprisingly not very revealing — almost a muted dash of plain tobacco aroma surrounded this stick as i slid it underneath my nose, and buried my nostril into its foot. Draw and breathe in as i might, there were very little on offer here — hardly a tickle, or a tease. Feeling a bit let down, i wondered whether this calm exterior was hiding something sinister beneath?

Snip, snip, the cap took a tumble. Instead of a torch, i decided to use some long cedar matches for this cigar — burned through 2 whole matches before i got it lit satisfactorily (damned, wind!). The draw was just nice, not loose, not tight. A little bit of resistance to make it interesting, like a woman who really wants you but plays hard to get. The smoke volume took a few deep draws to get going, but once it did, i think i must have resembled a chimney!

The flavours came quick and fast; so fast that i was certainly not well prepared to receive them. Surprised by the sudden assault of thick, juicy, meaty spicy-bean smoke, i responded by puffing away even more furiously than before: partly because it was so good i wanted more as fast as i could get it, and partly because i didn’t want this cigar to think that it had gotten the better of me!

The Gigantes is classic Bolivar. A thick dollop of spiciness preceded every draw, but if you take the approach of a quick second draw after a short first, the Gigantes somehow rewards you with a second flavour offering that tastes like creamy caramel and burnt vanilla beans crushed and pasted together. Its a truly remarkable experience that i’ve not really encountered in any other cigar; a decidedly pleasing complexity even within the microcosm of each draw. Wow.

The second half of the Gigantes gave way to more tame flavours, and in many ways it tended to start reminding me of its little cousin, the Bolivar Royal Corona. I suppose its hard to expect it to keep up that first half performance throughout the length of the cigar; even now it was a very enjoyable smoke, if not numbingly mind-blowing as it was earlier.

Verdict: I took this cigar right to the nub; it burned my fingers before i was willing to let go. Tremendously under-rated by most Malaysian cigar smokers, the Gigantes is what i would call, a “whirlpool cigar” — it does some pretty darn unexpected things from start to finish. The first half is to die for, but it tapers off towards the end. Perhaps a dose of age and time will make it a more consistent cigar. Highly Recommended.